A Community-Driven Project
The Ashland Youth Center first began as the vision of a group of youth and Hilary Sohcot-Bass, an Ashland service provider. The group first gathered in an apartment complex to talk about teen issues and the problems associated with violence in the community. The pressing question was “why are there so many problems affecting teens in our community?” The answer emerged that youth do not have enough productive activities to engage in. These youth presented their issues and recommendations for a youth center to Supervisor Nate Miley, who represents the Ashland community. Supervisor Miley acknowledged the importance of their recommendations and made youth issues his highest priority in Ashland.
Support from Local Leadership and the Community
Supervisor Miley has spearheaded and championed this project, connecting it to the Eden Area Livability Initiative (EALI) to bring the youth perspective to the Eden community. During the EALI process, the youth conducted a needs assessment with other teens and identified the need for a youth center to provide recreation, social, health and economic opportunities for youth in the area. In April 2008, over 300 community residents and partners participated in a charette in which the youth center was selected as one of the top five EALI priorities.
Investing in Community Renewal
Supervisor Miley continued to provide leadership by bringing key stakeholders together while maintaining the involvement of the youth. One of these key stakeholders is the Alameda County Redevelopment Agency. The Redevelopment Agency helps the unincorporated communities in Alameda County renew themselves by infusing needed capital into these communities and empowering them to assume control of distressed areas to orchestrate their re-growth. In Alameda County, oversight for the redevelopment process is provided by the Board of Supervisors who sit as members of the Board of Directors for the Redevelopment Agency. The Redevelopment Agency works in conjunction with the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to obtain the advice of local residents and community groups impacted within Project Areas. The Ashland CAC is comprised of Ashland residents and property owners and is charged with advising the Redevelopment Agency and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors on the redevelopment project and funding priorities for Ashland. Current members include: Hilary Bass, Patti Hart, Aisha Knowles, Doris Marciel, Barbara Quintero, and Robert Souza.
Role of Alameda County Health Care Services Agency (HCSA)
Alameda County is known for its leadership in countywide systems reform and interagency collaboration. As the major health authority for the county, the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency (HCSA) works to provide integrated health services to residents of the Alameda County within the context of managed care and a public/private structure. HCSA was identified as the most qualified operator to take on the operations and management of the Ashland Youth Center as a result of its expertise and history. Since 1996, HCSA has successfully developed a nationally-recognized Coalition of school-based health centers and, most recently, Youth UpRising, which serves as the first countywide youth center focused on youth and community transformation.
The Ashland Youth Center is part of HCSA’s Children & Youth Initiatives strategy to support the development of youth hubs that offer a continuum of comprehensive support services to youth and their families in key geographic regions in Alameda County. While Youth UpRising represented the first project that helped launched this initiative, other signature projects include the McClymond’s Youth & Family Center and Shop 55 Wellness Center.
HCSA builds partnerships between education and health partners to build communities of care to offer children, youth and families who are most vulnerable enhanced access to health and supportive services. These comprehensive health and wellness services include medical, behavioral health, health education and promotion, dental, injury prevention, youth and career development, technical assistance, public health coordination, coordination with probation and social services.
With every project, youth play a pivotal role in the planning processes. In Ashland, the youth have been a critical part of the planning and making the youth center a reality. It is now a priority of everyone involved to ensure that the youth voice remains at the forefront of the Ashland Youth Center.